SALT LAKE CITY — This year, things were different — way different.
Instead of watching a Div. II team celebrate an exhibition game victory in the Huntsman Center, the Utah Utes took care of business Friday night. They never trailed in overpowering Simon Fraser 71-36.
“I thought our guys did a real good job,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “We were dialed in defensively. There was a lot of energy.”
Contributions were plentiful. All 13 Utes who saw action grabbed a rebound. Nine players scored, seven were credited with assists, five blocked a shot and four recorded a steal.
Dallin Bachynski and Jarred DuBois led Utah with 16 and 14 points, respectively. Jordan Loveridge and Jason Washburn finished with 13 apiece. DuBois was the top rebounder with eight, while Cedric Martin had a game-high six assists and five steals.
“We made some mistakes out there execution-wise that we’ll fix,” Washburn said. “But for the most part I thought it was a solid game by all of us.”
It was a stark contrast to last season’s 61-60 exhibition loss to unheralded Adams State and other games early on.
“We’re further ahead in a lot of ways,” Krystkowiak said while noting that last year’s team didn’t have much of an identity when things got started. “I think mentally the Brazil trip (over the summer) really helped.”
Even so, Krystkowiak explained that the storyline remains the same.
“If you play defense it doesn’t matter what kind of team you have,” he said. “That’s where you win games and give yourself a chance.”
It certainly set the tone this time around. So, too, did a 57-35 rebounding advantage.
“I think what won us the game early was defense,” Loveridge said. “Coach has been harping on playing hard on defense, keeping guys in front of us and I think we did that well tonight.”
The Utes scored the first nine points of the game. Washburn got things started with a basket and a free throw. DuBois, a transfer from Loyola Marymount, then netted a pair of 3-pointers to ignite the rout.
“We just wanted to come out, defend, play hard,” DuBois said. “We worked really hard on our pick-and-roll coverage and our defensive rotation. So early on we were just trying to stay solid, not give them any open looks and that turned into transition baskets.”
Utah led 40-23 at halftime. The Utes continued to pull away after the break. They led by as many as 40 at one points. Defense set the tone. Simon Fraser was just 4-of-36 from the field (11.1 percent) in the second half.
“That’s a good indication of what defense will do for you,” Krystkowiak said.
The Utes open the regular season next Friday (7 p.m.) at home against Willamette.
"I think they are going to be pretty good this year and surprise some people in the Pac-12," said Simon Fraser coach James Blake.
NOTES: Simon Fraser, a Div. II school out of Burnaby, British Columbia in Canada, is the first international member of the NCAA. The Clan were officially admitted in August . . . Blake expressed his dispelasure about the officiating in the game. The Utes were whistled for just nine fouls . . . Utah walk-on Xan Ricketts played for Simon Fraser in 2010-11, averaging 1.8 points and 2.5 rebounds over 22 games . . . The Clan, who were led by Anto Olah’s 15 points, take on Utah State Saturday night in Logan.
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